How I Keep Growing My Nonprofit Marketing Skills, Ideas, and Excitement

How I Keep Growing My Nonprofit Marketing Skills, Ideas, and ExcitementAs the host of this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, I asked participants to share personal insights or just recommendations on how nonprofit marketers can keep their skills and interest fresh, when we’re all fighting against not enough time and money.

Here’s my take on this conundrum:

  • So-called professional development (and I don’t mean just the stuff you have to learn to keep up with your field or to get your CE credits, but how you keep yourself and your organization experimenting (strategically), learning, strengthening and engaged in better and better marketing) is even harder when you’re your own boss and don’t have the institutional support or funding for exchange with peers or traditional learning opportunities like conference and meetings.
  • On the other hand, I crave it. Yep, I need it more than ever because I need to lead my team, and my clients, to marketing success. And to have fun doing it. For me, learning and experimenting is fun. If that stops, the fun stops. Then why am I working so hard to build Getting Attention and Nancy Schwartz & Company?
  • So I keep pursuing professional development via several paths, all of which keep me learning, pushed, stretched, sometimes crazy but always, always engaged. I benefit and NS&C clients benefit.
  • But it’s hard, particularly when there is next to nothing available — conference or training wise — for nonprofit communicators.

Here’s my strategy (and one I recommend to other nonprofit marketers, in some combination):

Make yourself write about nonprofit communications by setting up a publishing venue for yourself or your nonprofit . When you do, you’ll be forced to find and think about key nonprofit marketing issues, and to comment or recommend.

When I began publishing the Getting Attention e-news back in 2002, I found it was much harder work than I realized. Not only did I have to write the bloody thing on a bi-weekly basis, I had to read everything I could get my hands on (online and offline), and talk with everyone I knew, to figure out key issues and how to approach them. When I started blogging nearly two years ago, the challenge grew exponentially. I’m pushing myself more than ever to keep on top of pressing issues for nonprofit communicators, and framing them and responses to them in a useful way for readers. Nothing keeps me sharper.

Develop a community of peers in the field — other nonprofit marketers; nonprofit  folks who fundraise, organize or run orgs; and marketers in the for profit marketing world — and serve as a mutual sounding board for them. Even better, swap ideas and challenges.

I’ve been lucky enough to "meet" a warm, smart, funny, helpful community of bloggers who play this role for me, and there are other folks too — former and current clients and colleagues — who jump in. Nothing is more valuable, stimulating and reassuring. BTW, many of the folks in my blogging community participate in the Carnival.

Digest the news and other aspects of your life through the lens of nonprofit marketing (other lenses can be there too, no worry)

When I heard about the recent scramble at the Jimmy Carter Center after President Carter published his book which some claimed was anti-semitic, participated in my committee meeting at the local Jewish Community Center last week and saw the movie The Namesake with my husband, I couldn’t help thinking about certain aspects of nonprofit marketing. Really. I’m not obsessed, I promise you. It’s just one of the lenses I carry with me, which adds depth to my participation in other aspects of my life.

Get Yourself out of the Office to Relevant Skill- or Relationship-Building Meetings, Trainings, Etc. — Even if You’re Hard Pressed for Time and Money

I’m treating myself this week coming to participation in Nedra Weinreich’s Social Marketing University. That’s travel, registration, hotel fees, plus three days away from client work and building the business. But that price is nothing compared to the value I’ll gain. First of all, I’ll get to learn more about a field of nonprofit marketing I find compelling. Even more importantly, I’ll get away from my desk and be in an atmosphere of learning, have the opportunity to meet smart folks in the field and get intellectually and creatively refreshed.

Not to mention that I’ll really produce on the train ride from NYC to DC and back (my husband says I should take a round trip periodically just to crank it out — as long as I’m in the phone-free car, no time is more productive for me.

Find a Muse Who Provokes, Challenges and Sometimes Annoys You

I’m lucky enough to have my husband Sean, whom I met through work many years ago, so he has a good understanding of what I do. He’s also a learning junkie and is always there to bounce my ideas off of. As a matter of fact, he’s a huge reader of so many "idea" books, that he’s always forcing me to think about things differently. The only annoying part comes when I’m just plain tired (I have to confess that my bedtime reading is tends to be fiction, rather than futurism or philosophy).

Mostly though, it’s great. He brings his work challenges (Sean’s editor in chief of Horsesmouth, an online professional development service for financial advisors) home to talk to me about too. And I learn that way as well.

So that’s my world. I’m always learning. Not to mention that a real benefit of serving multiple nonprofit organizations (more than 200 over the years) is learning about the issue focus, programmatic strategies, people and idiosyncrasies of each one. That’s another great source for me.

Enough about me? Where do you get your inspiration and learning on nonprofit marketing? Please comment below.

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Nancy Schwartz on March 25, 2007 in Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, Nonprofit Communications, Professional Development, Recommended Resources | 2 comments
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  • Elaine Fogel

    I agree with you, Nancy, that keeping up with others in the field is extremely beneficial. I am on the boards of the local Association of Fundraising Professionals and AMA chapters. I’m also involved at the national/international level, too. That’s where I find out what the challenges are and what others are doing to market and communicate.
    I also spent many years working for nonprofits at the national or regional level, so insider experience gives me much of my understanding.

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